In 2014, I watched every movie that had won the Oscar for Best Picture. The list was 86 films long at the time.
Crash quickly stood out to me as the worst of the lot, so I compared every single winner to Crash to determine the worst film to ever win the award for best film. Every year I watch whatever wins the Oscar and write one more, and while many of them are fairly close, I still think Crash is the worst Best Picture winner of all time. You can read the whole thing here and I will add one post to it every year as long as they keep handing out the award.
After nearly a hundred movies, I learned a lot about what the Academy thinks is a great movie. It’s almost always an American movie and it’s almost always “of the time” in some way. The Best Picture, it seems to me, needs to say something about the year it comes out in and about what the people who make and watch movies think and feel. The domestic focus is a product of another time, but the grander mission statement isn’t a bad idea until you start to notice the trends. Much more talented writers and reviewers have written a lot about what the Oscars is and isn’t, but it’s simple enough to say that the Best Picture for that year often isn’t, which means it’s an incomplete measurement.
So what is the best movie at any given time, much less the best movie of all time? It’s a stupid question and it’s something you can’t be objective about and it’s a pretty direct invitation to the world to get angry and disagree with you and it’s exactly what we’re going to figure out here.
You can’t watch every movie, but you can surely try. This is a perpetual search through film, both films in the American “canon” and things that would never make it to the Oscars. It’s not limited to films in English. It’s not limited to theatrical releases. It’s not even limited to live-action, traditional “films.” If it’s a movie, more or less, then it might be the best one.
If you have a movie that you think is the best movie of all time, feel free to let me know about it by email (readingatrecess @ gmail . com) or on Twitter (@alexbad). Every Monday (at least, maybe more often) we’ll take a look at another movie from your suggestions or from one of the many Lists of Great Films to See Before You and Everyone Else Dies and we’ll answer the question: is this the best movie of all time?
The current Best Movie of All Time is Persona. The search continues.